Virgin Islands AG Expanding Climate Witch Hunt

Published May 6, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #212

The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands is targeting dozens of think tanks, businesses and consumer groups, and individual researchers in his widening probe of organizations that have written skeptically about purported human-caused climate change and policies proposed and implemented to fight it. His efforts are a witch hunt, an assault on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech in an effort to silence political opponents.

A March 15 subpoena from U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker served on ExxonMobil demands copies of communications between the oil company and more than 90 organizations and researchers, including the Acton Institute for the Study of Religious Liberty, Africa Fighting Malaria, Arizona State University Office of Climatology, the Cato Institute, The Heartland Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Independent Commission on Environmental Education, the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at Southern Methodist University, Lindenwood University in St. Louis, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The subpoena was revealed by documents uncovered by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute to be part of a national, coordinated legal campaign by state attorneys general in collaboration with radical anti-fossil fuel groups to use the legal system against companies and organizations that disagree with and advocate against policies to address global climate change. The efforts are spearheaded by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, but were informed by and coordinated with leading environmental advocacy groups, who, the Washington Free Beacon reports, met on January 8, 2016, at the headquarters of the Rockefeller Family Fund, a foundation that funds liberal causes. At he meeting, the Free Beacon reports, “RFF, Greenpeace, [and] other environmental groups discussed ways to ‘delegitimize [ExxonMobil] as a political actor,’ ‘force officials to disassociate themselves from Exxon,’ and ‘drive divestment from Exxon.'”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), so far the only research center named in the ExxonMobil subpoena to be targeted with its own subpoena by Walker, has already responded. Sam Kazman, CEI’s general counsel, said in a press release:

The attack on First Amendment rights by U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Walker, Al Gore, and a coalition of attorneys general, is clearly political targeting aimed at stifling free speech and intimidating policy groups and private individuals who disagree with them. CEI is vigorously fighting these attacks on our rights, and the rights of all Americans who are protected by the Constitution and the First Amendment. Exxon’s subpoena reveals an astounding number of organizations and individuals targeted by these AGs, which further proves it is not only CEI’s First Amendment rights at risk, but anyone who holds different opinions than these government officials, whether that is on climate change or any other issue.

Many legal experts say the subpoena is of dubious legality. Hans von Spakovsky, a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and a senior legal fellow at Heritage, told the Free Beacon the subpoena is “a truly outrageous abuse of [the attorney general’s] authority and a misuse of the law. This investigation … is disgraceful and contemptible behavior by public officials who are willing to exploit their power to achieve ideological ends.”

In an April 11 column in USA Today, University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds says the attempt to silence skeptics’ speech on climate science and policy is likely a crime. He writes:

I wonder if U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, or California Attorney General Kamala Harris, or New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have read [18 U.S.C. Sec. 241]. … Because what they’re doing looks like a concerted scheme to restrict the First Amendment free speech rights of people they don’t agree with. Federal law makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).”

Let’s hope the courts agree!

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Washington Free Beacon; USA Today; Virgin Islands Attorney General; and Competitive Enterprise Institute


Growing number of investor groups ignoring climate risksMore proof carbon dioxide is greening the EarthRainfall amounts not changing despite predictionsObama’s UN climate funding violates U.S. law


Despite increasing pressure from anti-fossil fuel climate activist groups, the number of the top 500 investors (or investor groups) tracking, disclosing, and running programs to reduce the risk climate change may pose to their portfolios fell in 2015. Of the top 500 investors, 246 scored zero concerning their response to climate change according to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), which surveys global companies on their climate change risk and management. This is up from 236 investors scoring zero in 2014. Just 20 percent of investors are actually taking steps to mitigate or hedge the risk of climate change to their investments. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Japan Post Insurance Co Ltd., Kuwait Investment Authority, and China’s SAFE Investment Company are the four biggest funds that scored zero in the survey.

The 246 investors identified as “laggards” for doing nothing to address climate risks account for $14 trillion in assets, the report said. “It is shocking that nearly half the world’s biggest investors are doing nothing at all to mitigate climate risk,” complained Julian Poulter, chief executive officer of AODP, warning pension funds, insurers, and other investors ignoring climate change “are gambling with the savings and financial security of hundreds of millions of people around the world and risking another financial crisis.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg


A study published in Nature Climate Change, involving 32 researchers representing nine countries, once again shows climate alarmists’ fears that human-induced global warming will reduce the productivity and fecundity of plant life are unfounded. Instead, the study finds the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past half century is causing improved plant growth around the globe.

The study, using three long-term satellite-derived leaf area index (LAI) records and ten global ecosystem models, found from 1982 through 2009 “a persistent and widespread increase of growing season integrated LAI (greening) over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated area, whereas less than 4% of the globe shows decreasing LAI (browning).” They traced this global greening directly to the carbon dioxide fertilization effect, which explained 70% of the observed greening.



A comprehensive recent study in the Journal of Hydrology, examining rainfall measurements from nearly 1,000 weather stations in 114 countries from the 1850s through 2013, covering the Earth’s entire land mass except Antarctica, found no clear trends in rainfall patterns. In other words, if humans are causing increases or decreases in rainfall, the changes are so small, they haven’t been measurable.

The study, using a data set of more than 1.5 million monthly precipitation measurements, produced data sets for three time periods for comparison to rainfall patterns from 1961 to 1990, the initial period of purported human-driven climate change.

The two Canadian researchers found “global changes in precipitation over the Earth’s land relative to 1961–90 were estimated to be: -1.2 ± 1.7, 2.6 ± 2.5 and -5.4 ± 8.1 percent per century for the periods 1850–2000, 1900–2000 and 1950–2000, respectively.” In addition, they found “stations experiencing low, moderate and heavy annual precipitation did not show very different precipitation trends,” implying “deserts/jungles are neither expanding nor shrinking due to changes in precipitation patterns.”

The authors write, it is “reasonable to conclude that some caution is warranted about claiming that large changes to global precipitation have occurred during the last 150 years.”



Twenty-seven Senate Republicans are citing a 1994 law prohibiting the United States from providing funds to any United Nations (UN) agency that recognizes as a member country any country not recognized as a sovereign state, to demand the Obama administration cut off hundreds of millions of dollars from the UN’s Green Climate Fund and the $10 million in annual funding given to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The law targeted the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian territories that are not recognized as a country by the United States or other major world powers and are not UN members. Palestine recently joined the UNFCCC, which Republicans say should result in an end to U.S. funding for that group.

In a letter written to Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who led the lawmakers writing the letter, noted, “The administration needs to obey the law, and we’re going to do everything we can to enforce it.”

In the past, President Barack Obama cut off funding to United Nations entities over the Palestine issue. For example, in 2011, Obama cited the 1994 law to cut off funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it admitted Palestine as a member.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law, said the argument made in the letter puts the Obama administration in a tough spot. “The president is committed to climate change, and the president is also opposed to Palestinian unilateral statehood efforts at the UN, and the U.S. clearly does not regard Palestine as a state, ….” At the same time, Kontorovich noted while it’s well established that the executive branch has the sole authority to recognize a nation, laws like the 1994 one use the funding and appropriations power specifically delegated to Congress to enforce policies. “It would be a step beyond anything that’s been done before for the administration to ignore this provision, because it’s the power of the purse,” Kontorovich said.

SOURCES: The Hill and The Daily Signal

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